Seeing the Signs

To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, by Jade


I know this is a column about divination but sometimes I feel the need to write about books. Like many of us, I learned about paganism, wicca, witchcraft and many other occult subjects through books. Most of the books I read were from the public library and I took copious notes, which became my Book of Shadows. But when I had the money, I bought the books I longed to own or ones that were recommended to me. One that was recommended to me by the owner of the shop in which I bought it, was To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, by Jade.

My copy is signed but I have never met Jade. Her full name is Samantha Jade River (not to be confused with the singer known as Samantha Jade). She was born in Ohio in 1950 and grew up in Kentucky. She found the women’s movement and women’s religion in 1975. To Know seems to be the only book she has ever written, but she is very active in both the women’s liberation and spirituality movements. At this point, my only criticism of To Know is that it is out of print and it needs to be updated for the digital age; other than that, the information she provides is spot on, especially for those of us who are feminists.

Of particular interest to this column is chapter 5, “divination”. Unlike similar chapters in other women spirituality books which generally talk about “reclaiming” practices such as the Tarot, the I-Ching or Astrology in a woman-only language, Jade is incredibly thorough in both her assessment of various divination practices, their uses and possible abuses – something nobody else ever speaks of – and discusses psychic- versus scientific-bases divination systems. For anyone interested in divination, this chapter alone is worth seeking out.

She lists no less than sixteen forms of divinatory tools, including some of which we have discussed in previous columns. But many we have not. And she admits that it’s an incomplete list. Number 4 on the list intrigues me: “Alomancy – divination by the throwing of salt and reading the patterns it creates.” (102) When I was cleaning out my kitchen cupboards recently, I found a small container of salt from a bag of salt potatoes, so maybe I’ll try this method – having an excess of salt. Stay tuned!

She says there are three kinds of divination: psychokinetic, psychic, and scientific. The Tarot, the I-Ching, using a Pendulum, and Runes are all psychokinetic divination. That is, “unconscious kinetic energy communicates information through a divinatory tool.” (108) Psychic-based divination is the use of dreams, auras, crystals, scrying, channeling, and spirit guides. Scientific-based divination is everything else – including astrology and numerology – and all the divination systems based on the weather and movement of animals. I personally believe that you need to skilled in all three of these areas to be an accurate reader of any system of divination.

As for psychics, she lists thirty-six different kinds of psychic abilities, from Animal Reader to Xenoglossia. She has a warning for dealing with psychics – mainly that they may put their own interpretation and meaning onto symbols and tell you a bunch of stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with your life. But of course, this is true every time you pick up the paper and look at your “Horoscope”.

Her warnings about the “common hazards” in divination are equally quaint (103). Like a newly-recovered alcoholic warning her family about the dangers of drink at the holiday meal, she warns us about becoming “divination junkies” if we have “compulsive personalities” or we are “personally insecure.” (103) When I got my first tarot deck, I did Tarot spreads at least once a day. Sometimes several times a day – if I had gotten a new book about the Tarot out from the library and there were new spreads to try out – I used my cards all the time. And that’s true with every new deck I’ve ever gotten. How are you supposed to get good at a practice if you don’t practice?

But I know what she means. She means the person who can’t leave the house without consulting the cards or the runes or getting out her pendulum to see “should I stay or should I go.” She means the person who takes their daily horoscope so seriously that they literally plan their life around what some astrologist’s interpretation of the star’s patterns may be. I never saw divination more than a suggestion of what may happen – forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes – a way of seeing the patterns that were already there.

Anyway, the chapter on divination is not to be missed, nor is the rest of the book. If you are interested in To Know: A Guide to Women’s Magic and Spirituality, although it is out of print, there are copies available on Amazon. The link is here:


And I wish a Happy Yule to all!